Photo by J.H. Osborne.
BLOUNTVILLE — Thanks to donations, some federal Homeland Security grant monies, and a year’s worth of work by local volunteers, firefighters from across Sullivan County have a new training, public education and recruitment tool.
On Monday, firefighters from several of the volunteer fire departments in the county demonstrated the new “SCBA Confidence Trailer” to county commissioners and other officials.
The “SCBA” in the trailer’s name stands for self-contained breathing apparatus.
The trailer offers a mobile training ground for new recruits and seasoned firefighters and already has been used to provide fire safety education to children.
Constructed inside the trailer portion of a tractor-trailer, it offers a hallway with turns and corners and doorways into small rooms — and even a “garage,” staircase and “second floor.”
It’s made from the type of trailer used by moving companies, which means it already had more doors and openings than a typical freight trailer.
And it all can be filled with a non-toxic smoke to mimic what firefighters encounter in a burning home.
It gives potential recruits to firefighting a unique opportunity to don all the gear necessary and to enter a mock-up of a burning building. That helps them know if they want to pursue being a volunteer firefighter.
But Sullivan West Volunteer Fire Department Chief Drew Deakins pointed out that going inside a structure isn’t the only job a volunteer fire department does.
“We need firefighters,” Deakins said. “And we need people that help firefighters. There is no unimportant job on a fire scene.”
Deakins served as spokesman Monday for the Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association.
The association first began working on plans for such a facility about three years ago, Deakins said.
“A lot of opportunities came together for us to do it as a tractor-trailer,” Deakins said.
That included the association getting the ball rolling with $6,000 from its training conference, some Homeland Security grant monies, and multiple in-kind contributions from area individuals and businesses.
In all, the new “SCBA Confidence Trailer” cost about $50,000 — or about one-tenth of the estimated $500,000 price tag on a similar made-for-market trailer from a private manufacturer.
Work on the project progressed over the past year or so, Deakins said, and the trailer was put into use last month.
It will be offered for scheduled use by the volunteer fire departments across the county first, and then the calendar will be opened up to other departments in the area, Deakins said.
Before it was completed, the nearest mobile trailer like it was in Nashville, Deakins said, and the association’s departments would have to go there and get it — then take it back after training.